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A Kirkin’o’th’Tartan Worship Service


Shown below is the bulletin used for one Church’s version of a “Kirkin o’ th’ Tartans” worship service.  It is intended to merely be a guide, as each congregation has different resources and ideas.  The format of the information presented below is from the Worship Service bulletin used by the congregation that day.

The text in RED was not in the congregations Bulletin.  It shows what activiity is happening concurrent to that item in the Bulletin.

Th text in BLUE was not in the congregations Bulletin.  It shows the “script” that was being read to the congregation during that item in the Buleetin.

The Black Text is from the bulletin that day and represents what was handed out to the congregation.

The Bulletin also had two inserts.  First, was a complete listing of the celtic Clans/families represented within the congregation (there were 99 that day–many members requesting additional clan/family names to be added).  Click to see how it appeared in the Insert.   Second, there was an insert listing all the departed Saints of the Congregation, along with date of entry into Heaven, who would be honored during the Necrology.  Click to see how it appeared in the Insert

The picture below shows an example of the tartans on their poles.  The poles were built by members of the congregation and placed into stands, also built by the congregation.  Tartans, some voluntarily procurred by the congregation, others borrowed from the St. Andrews Society, are simple squares of tartan material 35″x40″ Tartans donated to the church are kept on permanent diplay in the meeting room in a display stand.

Kirkin’ O’ the Tartans

Apr 15, 2012

PRELUDE                               “Ode to Joy”   Dr. Fred A. Holbrook (Piper)

  •  The Piper plays starting at the top of the Sanctuary, center aisle, then descends to bottom on the pews and back to the top of the sanctuary, where he finishes the prelude.
  • At the conclusion, the Piper returns to the Narthex and the choir enters, singing. 
  • The thirty (30) Tartan Carriers have assembled in the Narthex but do not yet enter the Sanctuary.

INTROIT                 “Psalm 21”, Scottish Psalter, 1615                       Choir

  •  The Choir enters
  • Led by 2 “organizers”, the 30 Tartan Carriers line up in the Narthex as the choir leaves but they do not yet enter the Sanctuary.
  • Organizing the procession is relatively simple—tartan carriers pick up any tartan and simply line-up.  The order of the tartans is not important—except for the American Tartan of St. Andrew, which will be last out of the Narthex (and ultimately the first down the aisle and therefore, should end at the top of the center aisle).




  • At the conclusion of the Church News, the Reader proceeds to and then ascends the pulpit. 
  • The Piper and the Beadle stand at the top of the Center aisle, waiting for their cue to proceed. 
  • Lead by the 2 Organizers, the 30 Tartan Carriers leave the narthex and assemble at the back of the church—wrapping around both sides aisles—as each Tartan Carrier enters, they alternate going left and right—until they are wrapped around the backsides of the Church. 
  • The final tartan out of the Narthex is the American St. Andrews Tartan and it should be at the top of the center aisle.  On cue, it will be the first tartan to proceed down the aisle. 
  • The Reader waits for all the tartans to be assembled at the back and quiet, then begins:  

 “Welcome to the 2nd annual Kirkin’o’th’ Tartan Ceremony to be held in this church.  A Kirk is the Scottish name for a church.  But, the Kirkin’o’th’Tartans ceremony is an American invention and has been around since the 1940’s.  It began at the New York Ave. Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. In modern times, the Kirkin ceremony is conducted in churches of many denominations and often, at Scottish Highland games common throughout the United States.

Our ceremony today includes a Bagpiper, a Beadle and the 29 Tartans representing the 80 families in our Congregation who have a tartan as a part of their family history.  The 30th and final Tartan is the American St. Andrews Tartan—a tartan that represents ALL American families.

 The Beadle….”

  •  As the following is read, the Beadle steps from the Narthex and while holding the church bible high before him/her, walks down the center aisle takes a position in front of the congregation, turning around and facing them.
  • The bible remains high, displayed for the entire congregation to see.
  • The Beadle raises the bible to the left side of the church, then the right side and finishes by raising it towards the balcony.  He remains there until the reading is done.

 “The Beadle is a lay official of a church who, in the Church of Scotland, attends the minister as an assistant. Historically, especially in poor churches, the Bible was not only the churches most important religious item, it was often also the most valuable possession the church had.  The Beadle was charged with keeping the Bible in a safe place until worship—a place free from theft, damage or vandalism.  At the start of worship services, the Beadle would carry the Bible into the church and place it on the pulpit for the entire congregation to see.  After the service, the Beadle would return the Bible to a safe place.

 The Piper! ….”

  •  As the following is read, the Piper steps from the Narthex and without playing, walks down the center aisle takes a position in front of the congregation. The location he will remain at for the entire ceremony. 

“The Piper and the bag pipes are a common symbol of Scotland and its culture.  Historically, the Piper was a testament to the power and wealth of the Chief of a Clan.  In battle, the Piper remained close to his Chief, inspiring the Chief, and hence his warriors, with music to “stir their brave hearts.”  If the battle went wrong, Pipers were not slain, they were captured and the Piper was treated as an honored guest until his Clan could raise his ransom.  It is an emerging tradition that at a Kirkin’o’th’Tartans, a piper play “Amazing Grace.”

 The Tartan, with its famous plaid weave, is the symbol of a particular Scottish family (or clan) and each family has a personalized pattern and color scheme.  Smaller families often did not have their own Tartan but adopted the Tartan of a larger Clan.  They would also support that Clan in battle.  Today, the Tartan has evolved and plaids can represent nations, states, organizations, businesses, societies, and even individuals.  But foremost, the Tartan stands as a symbol of a Family. 

We are conducting our Kirkin’o’th’Tartans worship ceremony today to both bless our Families and to acknowledge the historical roots of our church.  Although we honor the Scots, Irish and Welch tartans within our congregation, we also celebrate the family, regardless of historical heritage, by acknowledging the American St. Andrew’s Tartan, a tartan presented to our President during our National Bicentennial in 1976.”  The American St. Andrew‘s Tartan will be the first Tartan in the procession.”

 PROCESSIONAL “Highland Cathedral” Piper:  Dr. Holbrook

  •  The Beadle places the bible on the pulpit. This is the signal for the Piper to start playing. 
  • The Processional starts. 
  • Simultaneously with the Piper playing, each tartan carrier starts down the center aisle–alternating entry into aisle from the left and right sides, proceeding singly down the aisle. Each Tartan is separated by 10 paces (half the length of the center aisle).  The pace is slow and dignified.  The Tartan is held high.
  • The first two tartan carriers remain in place and assist with placement of subsequent tartans into the stands.
  • The Piper plays throughout the “March of the Tartans.”
  • The American St. Andrews Tartan, the first down the aisle, turns and faces the congregation at the base of the pulpit. 
  • When only one position remains, the American St. Andrews Tartan will be placed into the place of honor (lower front of left stand) on the Tartan stand.
  • The Piper stops playing when all Tartans are in place.
  • When all of the Tartans are in place, 2 new Dual Readers position in front of the congregation and begin to read the names of the Clans, alternating after reading four families (Huntley-Brinkley style).

 “The Clans of this congregation have been called to gather together to receive Christ’s blessing. The following Tartans are represented today as we assemble as one family in Christ:  Thefamily Adams, wearing the tartanof Clan Gordon, Clan Cunningham;Clan Henderson; the family Jones, wearing a tartan of the Welch; “…   etc., etc., etc.,  Click to see how names were read.

  •  Both Dual Readers continue reading until all 99 families are acknowledged.
  • Dual Readers exit (to their pews).

CALL TO WORSHIP   (Based on Psalm 89:1-4)

Leader: I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever;

People: with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.

Leader: I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;

People: your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

Leader: You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David: ‘I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.’”

People: Praise the Lord!

GATHERING SONG “Morning Has Broken”    #469

  •  Glen/Seth leads the congregation in reciting the Tartan Blessing.

THE BLESSING OF THE TARTANS                                     (Unison Prayer)

On behalf of families of all nations, and in the name of all the families that are here represented, we present these Tartans before Almighty God in appreciation of our heritage; and we ask His blessings upon these, His humble servants.  O Lord, Thou has promised that in all places where Thou recordest Thine Holy Name, Thou wilt meet with Thy servants, and bless them; fulfill now Thy promise, and make us joyful in our prayers, so that our worship, being offered in the name of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, and by the guidance of Thy Holy Spirit, may be acceptable unto You, and profitable unto ourselves.  Bless, we pray, these Tartans—that they may be unto us and unto all people a token of the faith of our Fathers, and a sign of our service unto You.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. (then in Scots Gaelic, Pastor says): “Go Beannai Dia Duit” (May God’s Blessing be on You.)




Gracious and loving heavenly Father, on this day when we celebrate our heritage and give thanks for our families, we confess that we do not always honor or appreciate the gift of our families. We admit that in our selfish desires to indulge our own interests, we too often neglect the care of our family members. As fathers and husbands, we neglect our role to lead our families in worship, scripture reading and prayer. As mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, we resist the hard work involved in being a family. As families, we fail to follow, to serve, to submit to one another out of love and respect. We mindlessly continue in the generational sins that have plagued our families for years. Give us the courage to change and the will to forgive as you have forgiven us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.



Through Jesus Christ forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.  Thanks be to God, we are forgiven!

HYMN OF PRAISE, “Gloria Patri”,       #579

 AFFIRMATION OF FAITH:      “THE KIRK”                                     (Unison)

The notes of the true Kirk, we believe, confess and avow to be:

 First, the true preaching of the Word of God, in which God has revealed Himself to us, as the writing of the prophets and apostles declare; secondly, the right administration of the sacraments of Christ Jesus, with which must be associated the Word and promise of God to seal and confirm them in our hearts; and lastly, ecclesiastical discipline uprightly ministered, as God’s Word prescribes, whereby vice is repressed and virtue nourished.  Then, wherever these notes are seen and continue for any time, be the number complete or not, there, beyond any doubt, is the true Kirk of Christ, who according to His promise, is in its midst.

                                                                                      Scots Confession, 1560

FIRST LESSON                                                      Psalm 78:1-8 (Pew Bible pg. 468)

SECOND LESSON                          II Kings 22:1-4, 8, 10-13; 23:1-3 (Pew Bible pg. 310-311)

Leader: This is the Word of the Lord:

People: Thanks be to God.

SERMON    “A Family’s Foundation is the Word of God” – Pastor Seth McCormick




PRESENTATION OF TITHES AND GIFTS   (Concurrent modern ministry song?)  




  •  Pastor ascends to the pulpit.
  • Simultaneously 2 Wreath Carriers  proceed to the bottom of the pulpit, where an empty wicker wreath faces the congregation.  There is a basket of white roses in front of it.  Each rose has a tag with the Saints name on it.
  • Simultaneously, with the Pastor and Wreath Carriers getting into position, the Piper proceeds to the front of the congregation and gives an explaination of the hymn he will play after the names of the Saints are read, (“Fleurs of the Forrest”). 
  • When he is finished, and the Wreath Carriers are standing on each side of the wreath, the Pastor begins:

 “With our families gathered, including our family in Christ , let us remember with gratitude those Saints of our congregation who proceeded us to Heaven in 2010 and 2011.” 

  •  The Pastor then reads the name, in chronological order, by date of death for each Saint (members of the congregation) who passed away since the last Necrology held by the Church.  As EACH name is SLOWLY read the Wreath Carriers place a rose into the wicker wreath, gradually filling it up.  Note: for our first necrology  we went back 2 + years with names.
  • At the conclusion Piper  plays “Fluers of the Forrest.”
  • The Wreath Carriers take seats at the front of the sanctuary—near the choir–as they will be part of the procession at the end of the service.

 MUSIC:                           “Fleurs o’ the Forest”                    Dr. Holbrook



*RECESSIONAL HYMN:      “Amazing Grace”                                     #280

(The Congregation sings only the first four verses)

  •  The Piper and the organ join in at the second verse. 
  • The organist plans the fourth verse very loudly and then stops. 
  • The fifth verse is the piper only.  During the fifth verse, the Beadle (carring the bible) leads the Piper, then the Pastor.  The Wreath Carriers trail the procession out of the Sanctuary.
  • As the wreath carriers proceed up the center aisle, they hold the wreat between them, side by side, for all to see.
  • The procession disbands.  The wreath is placed on a stand in the Narthex.  The Piper proceeds outside the church.
  • When the congregation files out, the Piper will be playing from outside the front of the church.  The church doors will be open.